When you need a place to crash, Airbnb can provide a pretty soft cushion. Founded in 2008, the San Francisco-based company specializes in connecting property owners who have rooms or homes to rent and travelers looking for accommodations. Each night, roughly 2 million people rest up in an Airbnb-booked lodging. It’s a business worth around $30 billion.
For more on Airbnb, including some common questions and history of the service, keep reading.
1. The meaning of Airbnb involves an air mattress.
In 2007, San Francisco roommates Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky noticed that nearly every hotel room in the city was booked for a conference. The two had an idea to charge $80 to sleep on an airbed in their apartment. Three people took them up on it, and Gebbia and Chesky kept expanding from there. With Nathan Blecharczyk, the men co-founded Airbnb to offer the service nationally. Originally named Airbed and Breakfast, the name was soon shortened to Airbnb in 2009.
2. How Airbnb works depends on whether you’re a Guest or Host.
Using Airbnb is relatively straightforward. Guests (occupants) can browse listings and narrow their choices by location and amenities. (Rooms, homes, or “experiences” involving other attractions are available.) Once they book a stay, they can communicate with the Host (property owner) for information on how to pick up keys and other relevant information. Some bookings are instant, meaning once you commit online, you’re set. Others may require Host approval before being finalized. Airbnb also offers Airbnb Plus, which is a selection of listings with excellent customer ratings.
No money is exchanged between Guests and Hosts. All payments are processed via third parties like Paypal online. Airbnb typically charges Guests a fee of around 14.2 percent of the cost of the lodging and Hosts a fee of roughly 3 percent.
3. Airbnb stays can range from good to not so good.
Airbnb is a courier of sorts. It connects property owners or managers with occupants. While reviews can help people avoid issues, this dynamic can still be problematic. Stories of excessive noise, damaged property, and wild parties can populate sites like airbnbhell.com, which purports to chronicle complaints. Regulations to register a property as an Airbnb location can vary widely by city, so there’s no guarantee a Host or their property has been through any sort of approval process.
Hosts may be eligible for reimbursement owing to damage created by Guests, but that’s at the discretion of the company. Additionally, no background checks are required for either Guests or Hosts, so it pays to be discriminating when matching up with one or the other on the site.
4. Airbnb may not rent to you if you’re under 25 years old.
Airbnb recently enacted a new policy to combat some of those negative experiences by reserving the right to refuse rentals of entire homes to Guests under 25 years of age and who have fewer than three positive reviews.
5. Airbnb cancellations can be tricky.
Because Airbnb is merely connecting Guests with Hosts, it doesn’t have much say about the Host’s refund policies. If you reserve a lodging and change your mind, the Host may or may not refund your money, though most will try to work with you. (Their policy should be in their listing.) The rare exception would fall under Airbnb’s Extenuating Circumstances Policy, which may refund the Guest if domestic travel is limited, an emergency is declared, military action is present, or a natural disaster occurs.
If you arrive at the listed property and can’t access it, it’s dirty or unsafe, or it wasn’t as described, you can try resolving the issue with the Host before requesting a refund through Airbnb’s Guest Refund Policy. Guests have to state the nature of their problem with the Host, who has one hour to respond before Airbnb tries to remedy the situation.
6. Airbnb offers coupons.
You may stumble across a coupon for your stay, but be aware that these discounts come with restrictions. The coupon can only be applied during booking, not afterward; if you cancel your reservation, you won’t get the coupon back; and expiration dates can’t be adjusted. The rare exception to the latter are coupons issued for 2021 that may have been extended owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
7. Airbnb offers monthly and long-term rentals.
While plenty of Airbnb users are looking for travel accommodations, some need to settle in for longer periods of time. The site lists properties available for monthly sublets or long-term occupancy, typically for one fee rather than on a per-night basis. Discounts for monthly reservations can vary by Host, but some have offered reductions of 82 percent. If you’re paying by the month, the Host will usually charge by the month, meaning you won’t have to pay for a multi-month stay up front.
8. Not all Airbnb listings are pet-friendly.
While many listings on Airbnb allow for pets, some may get pretty specific on the size or type of pet permitted. There may also be a pet security deposit required. It’s always best to check with the Host to confirm pets are allowed. All Hosts, however, must permit a service animal.
9. Airbnb has gone public.
Airbnb went public in December 2020. At $100 billion, their Initial Public Offering (IPO) was the biggest of that year. Shares on opening day closed at $144.71 after hitting a high of $165.
10. There’s an Airbnb-inspired service for pools.
While Airbnb certainly rents properties with pools, consumers can also opt to just rent the pool by itself. A start-up named Swimply (which has no affiliation with Airbnb) connects pool owners to swimmers and allows them to rent their water oasis by the hour.
11. Airbnb Hosts are supposed to disclose whether they have cameras—but not all of them do.
Some Airbnb hosts install security cameras as a safeguard against property damage or theft. They’re required to disclose the presence of cameras in their property listing, but not all do—so be mindful that someone may have an eye on you.